Traveling Abroad for Dental Care
A New Smile in Hungary
Dental tourism is no exception either, as it is is very expensive, especially on the Western side of Europe, just like in the US, Canada or even in Australia.
Hungary, part of the EU, is located in the middle of the continent and has become a popular destination for dental tourists worldwide. Roughly 80% of medical tourists traveling here seek teeth treatments. Thus in the country medical tourism is more or less equal with dental tourism and it is so significant that about 50% of the overall European foreign patients are directed to Hungary.
How did it all start though?
In the 1970s and 1980s, Austrians from small villages near the Austrian-Hungarian border came to our country because dental care was expensive in Austria and cheap in Hungary. The Austrians were satisfied with the result and delighted by the cheap prices, and as time went by, not only people from the near border villages came to Hungary, but also patients from further away in Austria. As always, the good news spread quickly, satisfied patients all over Austria praised the Hungarian dentists to all their relatives and acquaintances. Soon foreign patients started coming not only from Austria, but also from other Western European countries.
The process was accelerated by the introduction of low-cost economic class flights, and gradually the destinations of foreign patients shifted from the Western part of Hungary to clinics in Budapest. Thanks to the previously mentioned cheap flights, patients are now coming not only from neighboring countries but from all over Western Europe. In fact, a significant number of patients are now flying to Hungary from the US or even Australia to return home with a brand new smile.
The main motivation is the cheaper price combined with high quality
Treatments in Hungary are much cheaper than in the Western part of the continent. How is this possible? In Hungary, despite being a long-standing member of the EU, the average price levels and income levels are much lower than in other EU countries. Consequently, the price of private health services is also lower. Dental cares provided to foreigners are not subject to VAT.
As clinics specializing in dental tourism buy large quantities of quality materials from reputable manufacturers, they can obtain significant discounts of up to 40% on purchases from large companies such as Nobel, Starumann or Camlog. This also ensures a lower price for the quality materials used. Thanks to this, on an average day, oral surgeons in a major clinic in Budapest often place 40-60 implants. Of course, this amount of work is done by several dentists in several chairs in one day.
The reputation of Hungarian dentists and dental education is very high. In Hungary, around 200 dental students start their training at Semmelweiss University every year with a share of 40% from foreign countries.
How much can you save on dental in Hungary?
In some countries of Western Europe, health insurance or tax regulations provide subsidies for dental care. In France, for example, each treatment has a fixed value, which of some is reimbursed to those with insurance. For the French, because Hungary is also a member of the EU, the same reimbursement is available even if you have your treatment here and not in France. In Ireland, a tax relief of 20% is available for dental care. This applies even if the work was carried out by Hungarian clinics.
In the UK, the NHS subsidies only a very limited range of services, and this does not include implant screws, which is the most popular solution for dental tourists.
A broad generalization of dental care in Hungary is that foreigners can save between 30-70% compared to Western European prices. The more complex the treatment one needs, i.e. the more expensive the work, the greater the savings can be made by having it done in Budapest.
Just a side note, that the Hungarian dental costs are considered very pricy for Hungarians due to their lower salary, so these costs are only attractive for foreigners.
What kind of dental treatments do foreigners come to Hungary for?
There are two broad categories of treatment needs.
Some people have healthy teeth but are not satisfied with their smile, the shape and size of their teeth. They typically come to Hungary for aesthetic or cosmetic dental treatments and many of them are looking for a full smile makeover, or a Hollywood Smile. The Hollywood Smile is a solution where the patient is fitted with zirconia or E-max full porcelain crowns or the same type of veneers on all teeth. This solution results in a perfect smile. Minor teeth problems like misalignment, discoloration, and chipped teeth in addition to shape and size problems are hidden behind veneers or crowns. Unquestionably, very spectacular results can be achieved, with such a smile makeover treatment.
A simpler smile makeover, involving 8 to 12 front teeth, typically visible when smiling or speaking, with zirconia veneers or crowns, is available for between €3,000 and €4,500.
A true Hollywood Smile, where each tooth is fitted with a zirconium veneer or crown, ranges from €8,000 to €10,000.
Others seek care in Hungary for health reasons, i.e. they have bad teeth or want to replace missing ones. They typically seek tooth replacement with implants, crowns, bridges or the popular All-on-4 solution. The latter means that in the case of a completely edentulous jaw, the dentist places 4 implants in one jaw and a denture or a complete bridge is placed on top. All-on-4 restores about 80-85% of the chewing power and stability of natural teeth for a person with no teeth at all.
Dental implants in Hungary are so competitively priced that UK patients usually travel to Budapest even for one implant based tooth replacement. The price of a full tooth replacement with a single implant ranges from €1,000 to €1,400, depending on whether the patient chooses a mid-range or top-quality implant screw, or a metal-ceramic or zirconium crown. The above mentioned price includes the implant screw, the abutment and crown, which are the components of an implant-based tooth replacement for a single tooth.
An All-on-4 or All-on-6, which provides a full arch implant-based restoration, ranges from €5,000 to €9,000 depending on the type of implant used and the material of the crowns. For All-on-4, the price range is more likely to be somewhere between 5,000 to 7,000EUR.
In the case of a complete bridge fitted on 6 implants, which is known as All-on-6, a bit higher price range should be expected. It is about 7,000 to 9,000EUR in Hungary. If the patient wants zirconium teeth, and bone grafting or sinus lift is also required, the price may slightly increase.
If someone needs a cheaper but implant free solution, they can have metal-ceramic bridges or crowns at an average price of 200EUR/crown/bridge unit. This is the best value-price tooth replacement solution for damaged teeth or minor tooth deficiencies with a gap of one or two teeth, because metal-ceramic is durable and aesthetic, although it is not as aesthetically pleasing as zirconia crowns. However, it is perfect for restoring full bite, chewing and speech abilities.
So, if you add the price of the flight and accommodation to the final bill it will still be much less in Hungary than it would be in the UK, France, Ireland, the US or Canada.
Of course, the price paid for the treatment in Budapest is also reduced by the tax and insurance reimbursement, for French and Irish patients.
The dentist prices in the Hungarian capital are slightly more expensive than those in the countryside, although Budapest has much more to offer than only the quality dental clinics, in terms of attractions and entertainment, and the airport is only 20 minutes away.
Foreigners tend to visit Budapest’s famous baths, the Buda Castle, the Fisherman’s Bastion and the worldwide-famous Parliament and Opera House. The Hungarian cuisine is also very famous and exceptional, with visitors eager to try the ‘stew’, ‘goulash soup’ and ‘fish soup’.
Getting a quote from Hungary
If you’re wondering how much you could save by fixing your teeth in Hungary, there are several ways to find out.
Clinics specialized in treating foreign patients, will be happy to make you a personalized quote if you can email them a good quality OPG (panoramic x-ray).
If a would-be patient does not have a panoramic x-ray result, it is also possible to have a referral made by a clinic in Budapest, which will have the OPG made abroad at an imaging or scan centre.
Some Hungarian clinics offer consultation in England, Ireland or even Switzerland. In this case, if they have their own clinic abroad, not only a consultation but also an annual check-up can be done there. However, if warranty treatment is required, this is typically carried out in Budapest by clinics that have a facility abroad, given that the work was also done in Budapest. It is good to know that clinics with a foreign office provide service in Budapest at a slightly higher price than clinics with a Hungarian office only.
It is also possible for prospective patients to visit the clinic in Budapest where the treatment will be carried out. For this purpose, clinics provide a consultation package, which usually includes a free consultation in Budapest, panoramic X-ray and airport transfer, although some clinics also pay for a night’s accommodation. It is worth taking the time to visit several clinics in order to get a personal experience of the place and the dentist you are going to see for improving your smile.
In summary, what are the advantages of dental treatment in Hungary?
First and foremost, the very competitive price, which is always combined with good quality. Clinics in Budapest typically state, in their quotation, which implant brands and crown and veneer materials will be used. So for someone studying such a quote it becomes clear that good prices go hand in hand with quality materials. This makes travelling to Hungary extremely attractive. In addition, the treatment plans also include details of the schedule, the number of visits required and their length.
You can start your treatments quickly, there is no real waiting list in Hungary. You may have to wait a week or two to start work, but this is nothing compared to the waiting times of several months in French and English-speaking countries. In Hungary, all cares were available during the COVID period. Foreign patients were also coming for dental work in Hungary, although not as many as before due to difficulties in travelling.
Treatments are quick, usually requiring 2-3 days in Budapest for oral surgery (e.g. implants, bone grafting, sinus lifting). For prosthetic work involving veneers, crowns and bridges, the average time you need to spend in Hungary is 4-8 working days, depending on the number of teeth treated.
Most foreign patients come to Budapest because there is so much to see and do that they can easily combine their holiday with smile improvement, meaning that every minute spent abroad will prove to be useful.
Is it really worth it?
Besides the advantages, there are also downsides to consider.
You have to fly to a completely foreign country and use dental services there. This is risky even with the best intentions. It is advisable to research very carefully the conditions, guarantees and experiences of previous patients. Google reviews can help a lot with that too.
Warranty conditions are always put in writing by the clinics, anyone who has not received one should always ask for one. This is typically part of the quotation. To maintain the guarantee, an annual Budapest check-up is required. For US and Australian patients, some clinics make an exception whereby it is enough for them to send an OPG and a brief summary of the results of the annual check-up by a local doctor and the warranty is still active.
If urgent help is required after treatment in Budapest, local dentists are reluctant to help those patients who fixed their teeth abroad. This is worth noting, as it can take hours of travel within the country to find a local dentist who would be willing to help urgently.
If you have to come back to Hungary for a warranty treatment, the clinics do not cover the cost of accommodation and travel, only the treatment is free of charge.
Generally, for aesthetic and prosthetic works, one trip is enough, but for implant-based restorations, you will need to fly to Budapest at least twice or in some cases even three times.
Still the vast majority of dental tourism patients are satisfied with the results and would do the whole process again if they needed to. And probably this is also a reason why the number of foreigners that come to Hungary for fixing their teeth increases year by year.